One of the things that blows my mind is the fact that with all of the resources at most people fingertips; many don’t know how to properly learn about “something”. That “something” could be almost anything; I am not talking about specifics as the concept can be applied broadly. Learning is something that is fundamental to almost all creatures great and small, but the ability to learn and reason makes us different than every other one of the planet inhabitants. If you want to learn about a topic you have more tools and options available to you now than ever before.
There is one golden rule about learning anything; this rules importance cannot be underestimated. If you don’t follow this rule it can come back and bite you in the most horrible way. Depending on what you are trying to learn about, ignoring this rule could conceivably result in your untimely demise. What is this oh so important rule I speak of, it is so simple you will probably laugh, but we ARE ALL guilty of ignoring it in our lives at some point. The rule of which I speak is using or relying on more than one source to obtain information on any given topic when attempting to learn about “something”. Using one source to learn about any subject is a really, really bad idea.
Oh come on now you say, how can violating a simple rule like this result in my death? There are many things I can think of; canning food is one fine example that immediately pops into my head. If you search the Internet (and we all know if it is on the Internet it MUST be true) and you find this great site on canning that should be good enough…right? You religiously follow the instructions on the website and can your items. Later on that year you decide to crack open your work and have it for dinner, sounds great. The only issue is that great website was run by an incompetent canner who is now dead, tragically killed by a tiny creature called clostridium botulinum. Hope you have good health insurance…
I was always a good student and I realized at a very young age that there were three types of information: good information, bad information and information that falls somewhere in between the two. Bad information is the kind that will undoubtedly get you killed and should be avoided like the plague. The information in between is the kind that will make you dangerous, this should also be avoided or diluted with as much good information as possible.
Inevitably you ask, what is the dilution you speak of? Simply put it is using as many sources as you can to weed out the crap. If you read a book and it says to do x, you read three more books on that subject and they say to AVOID doing x, I would probably discount that first source of information as sketchy. Does this always work? No, unfortunately I hope you enjoying gambling because you are just playing the odds; they are good odds, but tough to bet the farm on. This can really get sketchy when dealing with Internet resources because bullshit spreads faster on the Internet than swine flu at a hypochondriac’s convention in Acapulco.
When I want to learn about something, I may start with the Internet, dipping my toe in the proverbial water, just to see what is out there. I definitely use printed books on a subject to start any serious research. Make a trip to the library or the book store and look through a few books and takes notes. I check reviews of the books on the Internet and the message boards to see what is rated highly. I read a few of the highly rated books, I take copious notes on what I want to learn more on and then I head to the Internet once again. The most important part of this process is to cross check any information to make sure you can verify it or at least see that it is consensus among the authors.
One thing I tell everyone is to always doubt the validity of anything that you come across on the Internet, and no a picture does not PROVE anything as Photoshop can do amazing things. There are good sources of information out there, I am not saying the Internet is useless, I am just saying be wary. Dilution is the key, the MORE sources you use to learn the more of a chance the information you are reading is true. Remember this simple fact when you want to learn something new and you will do just fine, take it from someone who does a lot of research, and remember to use MULTIPLE SOURCES.
...that is all.
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